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Bo Diddley Beat

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Basically, "bump... bump... bump... BA-dump."

A rhythm used in blues and rock and roll music, made famous by Bo Diddley, the artist for whom it is named. He derived it from earlier rhythmic traditions, in particular the tresillo rhythm used in Caribbean folk songs and Cuban Rumba dance music (in reflection of this influence, a lot of the songs you'll hear with this beat use maracas, and a lot of tom-toms), and the similar rhythmic device they sometimes employed known as a "clave". Songs using the Bo Diddley Beat are notable in that they usually have no chord changes, or nearly none, instead creating musical tension by modulation of the rhythm.

Ironically, while Bo Diddley used the beat in a number of his songs ("Bo Diddley", "Hey Bo Diddley", and "Mona", mainly) it's not especially prevalent in his original version of "Who Do You Love?", the song most associated with it, since cover versions of the song invariably do use the beat; George Thorogood even name-drops it in his version, heard on all the "Sam Adams" beer commercials.


Here's some other songs that use it, in original or modified form:

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  • Used in this commercial for Vick's DayQuil (the second half).
  • And in this ad for the "Bud Light Hotel in Indianapolis", whatever the goddamn hell that is.
  • A commercial for Schick Hydro Silk
  • This commercial for Canada Dry ginger ale.
  • AutoZone incorporates it into their jingle in ads like This.
  • This commercial for


    Live-Action TV 



  • "Born to Hand Jive" from Grease (an obvious derivative of "Willie and the Hand Jive").
  • In West Side Story, the "clave" rhythm can be heard at the very beginning of "America" (Tempo di Seis).
  • As does In the Heights, for the opening and eponymous song.
  • Porgy and Bess has a similar rhythm going on in "Good Mornin', Sistuh!"
  • "Ladies' Choice" from Hairspray.
  • "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" from Little Shop of Horrors uses it at the end of each verse during the semi-rap section. ("Don't talk to me about old King Kong...")
  • "Me And My Town" from Anyone Can Whistle isn't really based on this rhythm, but slips into it for a cadence or two during the mambo-time call-and-response patter.

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    Western Animation